Do I need to follow airways when IFR?

Do I need to follow airways when IFR?

Postby luke_b » Wed May 15, 2019 2:51 am

Hey all,

First of all, thanks for this service. I absolutely love it. I've tried other online services and I'm sure they're great networks but for me nothing comes close to PilotEdge. The professionalism of the controllers and the structured training is incredible - the world feels so alive with all the drones too. I live in the UK where flying is incredibly expensive (£180 p/h here in London) and PilotEdge lets me feel like I'm involved in aviation even if I'm actually not.

I have to admit, whilst I'm running the CAT and I Ratings, I use GPS over VOR, mainly so I can focus on the communication / altitude / position rather than navigation (though intend to navigate with VOR for fun when I'm more confident). With that in mind, I've realised that sometimes I can file a route and most of it follows victor airways, but sometimes I'll miss a waypoint that's on the airway and actually fly direct between waypoints that aren't on a victor airway. When this happens I am flying IFR and ATC are watching what I'm doing so I presume (but might be wrong) that diverging from the airway is safe, but is it legal /expected /recommended? I know sometimes ATC will say 'direct to x' which allows a departure from the standard route of a SID/STAR/Airway, but can I do it with just a normally filed flight plan - or should I always be on an airway?

I hope I've worded this question well enough for it to make sense..I've watched the SID/Enroute/Star workshops and most likely missed something as it's a lot of good content.

Thanks
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Re: Do I need to follow airways when IFR?

Postby kevin meyers » Wed May 15, 2019 5:55 am

luke_b wrote: so I presume (but might be wrong) that diverging from the airway is safe, but is it legal /expected /recommended? I know sometimes ATC will say 'direct to x' which allows a departure from the standard route of a SID/STAR/Airway, but can I do it with just a normally filed flight plan - or should I always be on an airway?


I’m not 100% sure what you’re asking here, but I’ll give you several answers and hopefully one of them does it for you.

You are never allowed to deviate from an ATC clearance, unless some sort of emergency situation arises.

VOR-VOR flying is becoming a thing of the past due to GPS. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t learn how to fly VOR-VOR (you need to learn as it’s a basic fundamental of navigation) but especially with the FAA slowly decommissioning the VORs, GPS has become the norm. When flying IFR (or filing an IFR flight plan) it’s perfectly fine to choose two points that aren’t connected by an airway, assuming you are capable of navigating from one to the other (ie. If you don’t have a GPS on board, you need to stick to VOR and airway related routes). However, in Southern California, the TEC route system consists of almost all VOR and airway related routes so with the I ratings you will get plenty of practice with that.

You bring up the word “safe.” Of course it’s safe...but it’s no more safe to fly on airways with VORs than it is direct to GPS waypoints. You’re correct in that ATC has you on radar so they are responsible for your separation regardless of the route you’re flying. The only exception to this would be in a non-radar environment where ATC cannot see you. In this case, ATC will clear you via a non-radar route consisting of VORs and airways. You’ll only find non-radar environments in the WUS portion of PilotEdge.
Kevin Meyers
Retired PilotEdge Air Traffic Controller / Instructor
Dallas, Texas
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Re: Do I need to follow airways when IFR?

Postby Keith Smith » Wed May 15, 2019 9:26 am

Luke,

Kevin nailed it above, but to address your point about deviating from the airway...ATC may not have the airway pulled up, so if it's a relatively subtle lateral deviation and there are no conflicting aircraft in the area, they're unlikely to notice that you're not on the cleared route. If they happen to pull up the airway, they might see it, but short of that, it can easily go unnoticed by the controller. Remember, our controllers are operating a cylinder of airspace that is hundreds, if not thousands of times the size of what a r/w controller is covering.
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Re: Do I need to follow airways when IFR?

Postby rtataryn » Thu May 16, 2019 6:22 am

luke_b wrote:can I do it with just a normally filed flight plan - or should I always be on an airway?


Luke,

I'm reading your question as, "can I legally file and fly an IFR flight plan that does not involve a victor airway?". Yes. We frequently fly this way in the western US to save time and get more direct routing. I'm /G of course. Also, it requires carefully checking for terrain obstruction clearance, which isn't seen on an IFR chart or readily available as an MEA or MOCA when flying an airway.
Rod
PPL, Instrument rated, ASEL, ASES
2013 Cirrus SR22T N877MS
2018 Icon A5 N509BA
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